2018 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 1): Deciding to write and getting the interest of a publisher

2017 TAA Textbook AwardsWe recently reached out to winners of the 2018 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about how they made the decision to write their textbook, how they interested a publisher, what they do to boost their writing confidence, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and more. We will be sharing their answers in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

This first installment of the four-part series focuses on why they decided to write their textbook, and how they got the interest of a publisher. [Read more…]

Executive Director’s Message: Developing sustainable textbook business models

Textbooks have a very different challenge from journals in converting to online businesses. First, readers have not embraced longer works online quite as enthusiastically as they adopted shorter journal articles. Print continues to have strong appeal as a reading format.

Another critical barrier to developing sustainable online textbook business models is working out the complexities of author royalties.

We have entered a new phase of experimentation with textbook business models. One major textbook publisher recently introduced a digital platform providing student access to all eligible textbooks in the publisher’s portfolio for a flat rental fee per semester. This is but one version of a broader strategy called “inclusive access” (see Joe Esposito’s excellent post on this in SSP’s Scholarly Kitchen blog from March of last year). Inclusive access plans enable institutions to negotiate for campus-wide access to titles for a student fee that can be a fraction of the current average cost of textbooks each semester.

There are serious concerns among authors – especially of works already published – about how these new plans will impact royalties. Are authors paid a small share of every student fee collected?…every time their work gets used?…or only when the work is adopted for a particular course? It is unknown how online royalties accounting can be audited, or whether author royalties for online access can remain at least comparable to print royalties.

Even so, experimentation with business models is necessary. Textbook publishing must adapt to both the threats and opportunities presented by the digital environment.

The business case for aggregated fees rests on expanding market share and increasing the percentage of students who purchase access digitally. Inclusive access and other strategies have already reduced student average spending per semester and per book in recent years, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and the number of students who are getting by without purchasing a textbook, or only buying used books is still apparently very high today (see http://bit.ly/2ivJwlY).

Non-sales and used copy sales do not contribute anything to author or publisher royalties. Changing that dynamic might stabilize author royalties even if the royalty ‘per unit’ is lower. But there are risks for authors in the new arrangements, and the rollout of publisher business model experiments has so far been shrouded in secrecy. Publishers who want to act as partners with authors will take steps to inform them and address their questions before experimental models are presented to the market. And authors, as key stakeholders, should remain open minded to new models, but express their concerns and ideas pro-actively with their publishers whenever possible.

~ Michael Spinella, TAA Executive Director

Scholarly Kitchen founder Kent Anderson to keynote at 2018 TAA Conference

Kicking off TAA’s 2018 Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference this year is keynoter Kent R. Anderson, CEO of RedLink, a past-President of the Society for Scholarly Publishing, and the founder of “The Scholarly Kitchen” blog. In his keynote, Anderson will discuss how scholarly practices are of critical importance as we face an information economy that has become increasingly overwhelmed with self-interested distortions of fact presented on an equal footing with facts and research findings. As the current environment evolves, scholars who seek to express and share findings based in observable reality are increasingly challenged or, worse, dismissed. He will argue the need for new approaches, governance, and practices by researchers, educators, and publishers in order to preserve quality information, the relevance of science, and the ascendancy of objective reality.
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Learning science and textbook design: The value of pre-testing to jumpstart student learning

In the hands of an experienced teacher and motivated students, a textbook can be a powerful tool for learning. As with any tool in one’s toolbox, a design that enhances utility, and thereby improves performance, can make a textbook an effective, frequently used implement. As a textbook author, I realize that although effective communication of content is at the center, my textbooks will be used successfully only if the instructional design promotes learning. [Read more…]

TAA announces 2018 Textbook Award winners

Twenty-six textbooks have been awarded 2018 Textbook Awards by the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA). Four textbooks received William Holmes McGuffey Longevity Awards, 17 textbooks received Textbook Excellence Awards, and five textbooks received Most Promising New Textbook Awards.

The McGuffey Longevity Award recognizes textbooks and learning materials whose excellence has been demonstrated over time. The Textbook Excellence Award recognizes excellence in current textbooks and learning materials. The Most Promising New Textbook Award recognizes excellence in 1st edition textbooks and learning materials.

The awards will be presented during an awards reception at TAA’s 31st Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference in Santa Fe, NM, June 15, 2018. [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: November 24, 2017

"Writing means sharing. It's part of the human condition to want to share things - thoughts, ideas, opinions." ~Paulo CoelhoDuring this last full week of Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) 2017, we focused on sharing ideas. In this post, we share some of the top posts of the week including information on a new publishing company, what makes a good article title, how to express authorial presence, manuscript drafting advice, student reading patterns and OER, and tips for finishing your book. Paulo Coelho reminds us that “Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.” This week, share your ideas and, as always, write. [Read more…]

2018 Textbook Award Nominations Now Open

2017 TAA Textbook AwardsNominations for the 2018 Textbook Excellence Award (“Texty”), McGuffey Longevity Award (“McGuffey”), and Most Promising New Textbook Award, opened September 1 and will run through November 1.

For more than 20 years, TAA has supported textbook and academic authors through these highly-recognized awards, given annually to emerging and veteran published authors in eight subject categories. [Read more…]

Collecting unpaid royalties: Trends, traps, and litigation strategies in textbook royalty enforcement

textbooksMuch has been written about changes in the college textbook marketplace over the last decade. The industry has adapted to new pedagogical methods, the proliferation of digital learning materials, and profitability pressures felt by publishers — all leading to significant innovation in the publication of learning materials. Some observers have concluded that we may be witnessing the death of the textbook as we have known it.

As the textbook publishing marketplace has changed, so too have relationships evolved between authors and their publishers. Commercial arrangements forged in the era of print media — which were amended and extended over time to apply to the publication of new editions — have been impacted by these industry-wide changes. [Read more…]

How to part with your publisher when your textbook goes out of print

Textbook ResearchDuring the 2017 TAA Conference session, “Wanna Get Away? Maybe Now You Can: Parting with Your Publisher,” intellectual property attorney Stephen E. Gillen, a partner at Wood, Herron & Evans, said that one event that can open the door to parting with your publisher is when your textbook goes out of print.

When and how your textbook goes out of print is governed by your contract, said Gillen, which means it’s best to think about these situations in the early stages of negotiating your publishing contract. “They [your publisher] are probably going to be more inclined to make changes in that language in the beginning than they would be somewhere along the way,” he said. [Read more…]

Why textbooks need development and why authors should do their own

Mary Ellen Lepionka, author of Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide, shares why textbooks need development and why she recommends textbook authors do their own.

Listen to the full interview